Born, bred and still living in Dublin, Colette Caddle's first novel, Too Little, Too Late, was published by Poolbeg in 1999. It went straight into the top five on the best-seller list and to number one within two weeks. Around the same time, Colette became a mother for the first time. 'My working schedule went out the window and it took a while for me to figure out how I was going to write and be a full-time mother. Finally I decided that when he needed me I would concentrate on him and forget about work. It was definitely the right move! He was happier, I felt like the best mother in the world and when he was asleep, I got through a mountain of work! And she really did! Colette has since produced four more chart toppers : Shaken & Stirred, A Cut Above, Forever FM and, most recently, Red Letter Day. Her novels have been translated into several languages and she has also contributed to many of the charity short stories books. Currently working on her sixth book, Colette has her hands full, as there's been a new addition to her family. 'Sean is seven months old now and it's a bit tricky trying to juggle writing and being a mother to two boys but I think I'm getting there!'
Colette, can you tell us about your latest book, Red Letter Day, and how it came about?
I decided to base my latest book, Red Letter Day, around a second-hand boutique because they are so popular lately. They have changed so much, selling some wonderful fashion pieces, well cut, big labels at a fraction of the price. And there is no longer any stigma attached to buying something second-hand. Many women boast about their acquisitions. In all my books I try to set a scene that will allow a mix of both sexes, different age groups and a variety of backgrounds and a second-hand boutique was a perfect backdrop for this mix.
How long did it take you to write?
It took me about five months to get the basic story down and then another three to four to edit - for me edit sometimes means a complete re-write!! I find as I get to know my characters better I have to go back and change some of their scenes in the earlier chapters
How do you organise your writing day? For example, where do you write? And at what time of the day are you at your writing best?
Morning has always been my favourite time to write and that works well with young children. After I pack my eldest off to school and youngest off to crèche, I get stuck in. After lunch is playtime and then in the evening I will often review the work I've done that morning.
Do you use a computer or write long hand?
I mainly use my laptop but if I'm out and about and get some ideas I'll write them down - if I didn't it would be forgotten and lost forever although copy it verbatim into the laptop! Still, scribbling things down when I'm in a restaurant - I blame that on hormones!!
Do you edit as you go along? Or at the end of the first draft?
I always used to edit each chapter as I went but I stopped that after my second book. I found that stopping to edit affected the flow so now I just get it all down and worry about the editing later.
Do you use the Internet for research? Do you find it useful? What other research tips can you give writers?
I am a total convert to the Internet - what a fantastic facility for every author - although then we don't have any excuses to escape our desks and venture into the world!! Another resource that I think many would-be writers forget are their own family and friends. Just think of the breadth of experience the people around you have from their careers - past and present - and their hobbies too! There really is a wealth of information on our doorstep just waiting for us to dip into.
Are there any books or websites you would particularly recommend for writers?
I am a huge fan of Stephen King's book 'On Writing'. He gives straightforward and simple guidelines and he doesn't mince his words!
Has your life changed since writing your first book, 'Too Little, Too Late? Or since becoming a full time writer?
Only in that it's changed because I became a mother at the same time. Being a writer allowed me to stay at home and I know I would have cracked up if I'd had to go back to a nine-to-five situation.
How did you get your first book published? Was it difficult?
I was one of the lucky ones. I had only written a few chapters of Too Little Too Late and a friend nagged me until I sent it off to Poolbeg. I got a call from Kate Cruise O'Brien the next day.
Do you have an agent? And if so, how did you find him/her?
I did things backwards, really and I wouldn't recommend it! I got my agent when I was working on my second book and had already committed to a three book contract. She was recommended to me by a fellow author and thankfully she took my career in hand allowing me to concentrate on the writing.
What are you working on at present? When will it be published?
My current book is about sibling rivalry - I haven't decided on the title yet - and it should be published next Spring.
Colette you have two young children. How do you juggle being a mother and being a writer? Do you find this difficult?
As I say, I try to work when they're not around although as the deadline approaches that's not always possible. Still, my five-year-old is happy to play beside me as I work and the baby is happy to be with his brother so we muddle through!
What type of books do you like to read? What books are on your bedside table at the moment? Do you have a favourite book?
I read a huge amount of books from every genre and my biggest frustration while the baby was young was not having the time or energy to keep that up. Things are improving, however, and I have a huge pile of books that I've been buying over the last few months and stockpiling that I am now able to dip into. The book on my bedside table - just finished it - is a book called Homing Instinct by Diana Appleyard. It's about a working mother trying to balance career and motherhood - you can see the attraction!! It's hard to pick just one book as an all-time favourite but if you pinned me down it would have to be Five Quarters of The Orange by Joanne Harris.
And finally, do you have any advice or tips for writers?
Two things: Firstly don't prevaricate. Don't say ' when I take some time off, I'll write' or 'when I go on holidays, I'll write' - it will never happen. Stop making excuses and just get stuck in.
Secondly, Don't get hung up on detail. Some people dither for weeks over the first chapter and then get disillusioned and give up. There will be plenty of time to edit later. It's much more important to get the story down on the page and discover your flow, your style. Don't worry about spelling and punctuation, that's what editors are for!